Anjali School of Performing Arts presents Arti Alagappan's arangetram  
- Thara Narasimhan, Sugarland, TX 

September 15, 2008 
 
The one hundred and thirty second arangetram under the auspices of Anjali School of Indian Performing Arts was held on Sunday September 6, 2008. Thirteen year old Arti Alagappan's dance debut was presented in a conventional format. Hers was the ninth arangetram of Anjali this summer in Houston. Her guru Rathna Kumar choreographs a repertoire best suited for each one of her students according to their artistic excellence and competence. 

Arti Alagappan commenced her performance with Pushpanjali in Vaasanthi ragam.  At the very outset, one could notice the expressive eyes that followed the hand. The communicative eyes of a dancer is the most essential  feature of how they see the space around them, where they choose to put their focus, or how they complete a moment with their eyes. Right from the beginning, Arti followed the essential principle mentioned in most well known verses in the Natyashastra "Yatho hastha thatho drushtir" which translates as "eyes should follow the hand." It is one of the most basic principles of Indian dance, and Arti adhered to the fundamentals right from the start. 

Jathiswaram was presented with intricate jatis to music in Charukesi ragam in Misra Chapu tala. The Neelambari raga Pada Varnam was an extraordinary piece chosen from Lalgudi Jayaraman's compositions. The Pada Varnam differs from the Tana Varnam that lyrics are also set for Chittaswara sections. "Senthil Mevum Deva Deva, Shiva Bala" in praise of Lord Subramanya gives a lot of scope for nritta and abhinaya. The raga, lyrics and swaras in this Varnam is always a dancer's delight and Arti utilized the opportunity to prove her capability. The grace, expression and confidence she exhibited in the narrative part were remarkable. The item started with a slow beat and progressed to a faster rhythm. The anticipation of a lover, in this case her beloved Lord Muruga in the verse "Enthan ullam ni ariyaayo, Yaen inda mayam" - meaning "Don't you know my heart, why this mystic illusion" - was well depicted. The faster beat in Charanam "Mayil meedhuva" was yet another portion of the Varnam wherein the percussion instrument scored with NK Kesavan on mridangam, pakhawaj, chenda and kanjira all in a one man show and matched by Arti's sure steps.

The first of the Padam was  Ranjanimala that began with a sloka on Devi with the first lines taken from Lalitha Sahasranamam, "Sinduraruna vigragam, trinayanaam"  followed by "Ranjani mridu pankaja lochani" in ragamalika comprising Ranjani, Sriranjani, Mega Ranjani and Jana Ranjani. Arti performed with grace and brilliance, the transformation from a Goddess to a devotee. The lord of dance was celebrated in "Ellai illa Inbam" in Amirtavarshini raga. In this piece, Shiva Nataraja, the Lord of Chidambaram, dances in joyous abandon, watched in rapt attention by an awe-struck audience of saints and devotees. "Vandadum Ponadhum" is yet another Padam in raga Bilahari depicting Krishna's childhood pranks described by Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer. Melody and rhythm intertwined with a pictographic abhinaya, well choreographed by Rathna Kumar.

Gita Vipulanandan introduced the musical ensemble - vocalist J Ramesh, B Muthukumar on the flute and NK Kesavan on five percussion instruments. This marks the 10th year that the orchestra group from India accompanied the dancers of Anjali School of Performing Arts. They have integrated well into the dance school and music community of Houston and not only provide exquisite live music but teach traditional values as well to the students of Anjali Center. 

Many accolades came to Arti Alagappan during the interval of her dance numbers. Arti's grandmother proudly wrote a poem about her granddaughter and her dance in Tamil. Nancy Stuart from Clear Lake Middle school praised Arti for her achievements, for working diligently in her Science class and being placed first in the Houston Science Fair (Chemistry Division) in 2008.  Dr. Gary Gibbs Executive Director, Texas Commission on the Arts, complimented Arti's artistic talents. He recognized the contribution of Arti's parents in involving her in Fine Arts. He mentioned that all over Texas, he has seen rich culture resources in Mexican, African and of the Indian American community. To make sure that the cultures are preserved, it is imperative that the succeeding generation share with America, their own rich tradition even though they grow up here fostering western culture. He paid tribute to Rathna Kumar as a master artiste who imparts knowledge, keeping up with tradition.  He added a note to the parents to provide opportunity for children to learn Fine Arts.  He said, "The mark of education is to connect the dots in all aspects of art forms which lead to creative thinking, problem solving and when we have a creative economy, we will have a creative workforce."  

Rama Vaidyanathan, leading dance exponent from India, graciously accepted the invitation to Arti's arangetram. She noted that Arti displayed good rhythm control and it was good to see her rise in her journey with strong roots nurtured by her guru Rathna Kumar. Arti's brother Perry Alagappan Junior's participation was the invocation song right at the beginning of the program. Both Perry Alagappan and Arti Alagappan learn Carnatic music from Rajarajeswary Bhat.  

Ranjana Narasiman, emcee of the evening, delighted with her smooth introduction of the dance items. Arti, freshman at Clear Lake High School, dedicated the performance to children less fortunate than herself.